Core 52 – Growing Your Bible IQ

On the very first page of the introduction, Mark Moore lays out the purpose of the book when we references a study which concludes Bible engagement is “the single most powerful predictor of spiritual growth.” From that point on Core52 provides a great tool for readers to engage with the Bible.

I’ve had the opportunity to sit under Mark Moore’s teaching at a number of events where he is the speaker and our staff has used some of his video resources for continued training. He is an excellent public speaker and is just as versed as he communicates through the written word.

Core52 is a tool for individuals and groups to use to increase Bible IQ and enhance our ability to engage with God’s Word and with others. There is a reading (the author calls it “an essay”) for each week along with tools to assist the reader in deepening his or her understanding of the weekly core truth. The book covers the topics of creation, holiness, prayer, money, the Cross, freedom, humility and many more.

Here’s an example of an insight gained through this book. In one of earlier chapters, Mark Moore wrote about holiness and sought to clarify what holiness is. In chapter five he wrote this: “Holiness happens when God proclaims, not when a person performs. Our holiness is God’s gift to us, not our gift to Him. Holiness is received, not achieved.” While there is more in the chapter, I thought that was an excellent way to describe holiness and is helpful to those who struggle with not “feeling holy enough.”

Core52 is a solid resource that can be used as a personal devotional tool, a small group study and a study for new believers.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher Waterbrook Multnomah.

Advertisements

You’ve Heard of Fornite, but What About Apex Legends

Just a couple of weeks ago one of my high school students, who talks regularly about Fortnite, mentioned a new game had just “dropped” – Apex Legends. He said that Fornite was dying and Apex was already breaking records. I’m not much a gamer (meaning I don’t play at all), but it turns out he was right. Apex is currently the hottest battle royale game out there.

An article published on AP News shared the following numbers about Apex Legends:

“Apex” had 25 million downloads in its first week, crushing the “Fortnite” mark of 10 million over its first two weeks after launching in 2017.

8.28 million hours of “Apex” were streamed on Twitch, topping the “Fortnite” mark of 6.6 million from July 20, per The Esports Observer.

The numbers are pretty astounding : 25 million downloads in one week and over 8 million hours streamed!

According to the article, players were being recruited to play the game. One 18-year old from Florida is thought to be the best Apex player in the world and was signed by NRG Esports, a company that puts teams together to play on various streaming markets like Twitch. He won $200,000 in a Twitch Rivals Apex Tournament! $200,000!

While we know that no game, even Fortnite, will last forever, Apex Legends has stormed on to the scene and captured the attention of gamers everywhere. While it is free, players can pay for different outfits and other upgrades.

If you have a student who plays Fortnite, they probably already know about Apex Legends. Many of our students are spending many hours on either Fortnite or Apex and whatever may come down the pipe next. You might want to check in with them to see what they are currently playing or watching other people play.

You can read the entire AP article to not only get more information, but also to watch a video of Apex Legends being played.

Resources for Parents on Social Media, Apps & Phones

photo credit: Iker Merodio | Photography Shadows in a Sunny Day via photopin (license)

Conversations about phone use and social media are happening all over the place. I saw a piece on the news about how Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson has been a victim of online bullying. He was engaged to Ariana Grande and their break up kept them in the spotlight. On top of that he recently apologized for a sketch on SNL that brought a lot of criticism.

In the NBC news piece, Davidson spoke about the messages and comments he has received, the dangers of social media and how he has deleted photos from his Instagram in response to all of it.

While social media and the connection we have through our devices has many positive aspects, there are some pretty dark and disturbing things as well. How do parents help their students navigate this ever changing world? There are some good resources available that can equip parents to keep the conversation going.

In a recent post on the Growing Leaders blog, Tim Elmore offers some suggestions as to why parents should reduce social media use. He points to the constant pings and notifications that come with many social media apps. Those continual notifications can be distractions and even create a sense of needing to respond immediately to what we receive. It could even lead to a level of addiction. Elmore’s insights are worth considering if your student is constantly tied to his/her device. Read the whole article here : One Great Reason to Reduce Social Media Use

In a more recent blog post (published Dec. 4) Elmore shares about five apps that are potentially dangerous for teens. He lists these five ::

  1. Yubo
  2. Calculator%
  3. Marco Polo
  4. Wishbone
  5. Whisper

He describes what each app does and how it could be unhealthy for our students.

More than just those specific apps, I think this article underscores the responsibility parents should have to know what is on the phones of our students.  As Elmore says at one point this post, “an adolescent brain can quickly spot the potential benefits of this app, but they do no see the likely consequences.”  We need to help our students think through the consequences of choices they make (both good and bad) and we can’t really do that if we don’t know what they are doing.

Want to talk to your student about cell phone use and even come to agreement on it?

Parent Ministry offers various resources including an article called Top 10 Ways to Tame the Cell Phone Beast. In it they offer suggestions about where teens charge their phones at night, texting and driving and even using a cell phone contract.

You can download the Top 10 Ways on the website and they even offer a free Cell Phone Contract. You can use the contract as it is or use it as a discussion point with your student to talk about devices, social media and so much more.

While there are many good resources out there, these are just a few to help parents have the conversations about these important topics.

What’s Right About Youth Ministry

As I was placing an order on the The Youth Cartel website, I saw a new book had recently been released : What’s Right About Youth Ministry.  It was on sale (I think) and I had already qualified for free shipping, so I thought, “Why not? I’ve been trying to do more reading and it looks like a good read.” It was.

The book was authored by Mark Oestreicher (Marko). He has been a part of the youth ministry world for a number of years and has served in a variety of capacities.  He has a unique perspective as both a volunteer in his church’s youth ministry, a trainer of youth workers and a recognized speaker.

Kurt Johnson, Junior High Pastor at Saddleback, wrote responses at the end of each chapter. I found what he wrote to be helpful. He sometimes underscored what was said and other times provided a different perspective on the issue.

I’ve never met either of these men personally, but have read other works they’ve written, listen to them via video or audio recording and have heard them speak live and in person.  I value their experience and passion for youth ministry and appreciate the insights they have.  While the book is fairly short (just over 100 pages), it contains some great thoughts and challenges for youth workers.

There were a few things that stood out to me.  I love this “equation” or “magic formula that Marko gives for a great youth ministry.  He shares in the book that he was speaking to a group of Spanish-speaking youth workers and felt compelled, with all the other information he was sharing, to kind of simplify things.  He said there are three things necessary for great youth ministry: 1) You Like Teenagers 2) You Are a Growing Follower of Jesus 3) You Are Willing to Live Honestly in the Presence of Those Teenagers You Like.

I thought that was so helpful and a good description of my small group leaders and volunteers.  Marko then kind of expanded it to say this:

A grace-filled caring adult who’s willing to be present with teenagers
+
A small-ish group of teenagers
+
The power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus
=
Fantastic youth ministry!

While there is no much we need to know about youth culture and helping students in crisis and relating to parents and communicating well and managing details and staying organized, I thought this “equation” was right on.

I’ve been in full-time youth ministry for nearly 30 years, yet still can fall into the comparison trap where I look at what others are doing and see how I measure up.  Whether you are brand new to youth ministry or have been doing it for decades, it’s something we all can find ourselves doing.  Marko’s encouragement is for everyone.

God isn’t calling you to be just like the youth ministry from that other church, even if that youth ministry is fantastic; God is calling your youth ministry to discern and embody the unique contextualized expression of youth ministry he has dreamed up for you.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better and smaller doesn’t trump bigger.  Being faithful to where God has placed you and knowing the context in which you serve are important elements.

In an earlier chapter Marko also talked about the importance of keeping the course and not just changing up programming to get a different result.  I think this is connected with the idea of being who God has called you to be.  He talks about the misplaced gorgeous value of patience and the mundane way of steadfastness.  I agree that we need to modify our methods as culture changes, but there is also the reality that we should be steadfast and consistent in our ministry to students. Many of my leaders have great relationships and influence with students because they have been steadfast and consistent.

As youth ministry as a profession has changed over the last few decades and, as some have said, has gained legitimacy as a career path, it has led to so many different voices and resources available for youth workers.  I love the fact that I can read a blog, subscribe to an email list, join a Facebook group or watch a video that provides training and information I couldn’t get as easily before.  It has opened the door for other voices that you would most likely not have ever heard from before.  Kurt Johnson, in one of his responses, talks about this very thing and offered a great insight: But, just because somebody has a voice doesn’t mean you need to listen to what the person says, nor does it mean that person’s insights are as valid as somebody else’s. These days almost everybody has something to say and thinks he or she is the person to say it.

I found that to be helpful and echoed what I found myself thinking when I would read something someone wrote.  Just because I have some kind of platform (like a blog perhaps?), doesn’t mean I necessarily have the wisdom or insight a particular situation or issue requires.  Sure we can all disagree on issues (just look at the comments on any Facebook group you are a part of), but I think we need to be discerning in the voices we listen to and ideas we adopt.

What’s Right About Youth Ministry was encouraging to me because it affirmed some of the things we’ve been trying to do, but also provided some challenges as we move forward. I found it to be helpful to me and think it would a good read for other youth workers.

Fortnite and Your Family

photo credit: mikecogh Luc Playing Fortnite via photopin (license)

Even if you aren’t into video games and rarely (if ever) play, you have heard of Fortnite. People talk about it all the time and it has spilled off the screen into our culture. This summer, while at a high school conference, some of our students were doing dance moves from Fortnite. Another student, from another youth group – a student we had not even met – started dancing along with our group. That is the power of Fortnite.

If you are a parent of Fortnite fanatic, you may have some questions about the game or concerns about the amount of time students spend playing the game. Here’s a good resource to help answer some of those questions and even create some conversation with your student.

Parent Ministry seeks to provide a library of resources and tools to parents. Recently they published a free article about Fortnite titled THE FAMILY BATTLE ROYALE (Fortnite and Your Family).

The article highlights the fact that nearly 80 million people are plugged into the game and it is a place for students to connect with friends.

Years ago I heard a speaker talk about relationships of proximity (I’m friend with you because we live in the same neighborhood or attend the same school) and relationships of affinity (we are friends because we share common interests).  Fornite has become a place for those relationships of affinity.

The article also links to an article from Common Sense Media that provides a guide for parents about the game.

If you are a parent of a Fortnite player, it would be worth the time to check out this resource or share it with a friend.

#WorldAdoptionDay @daytonmomsblog

It’s hard to believe how much has changed since this picture was taken. Max is now 5 and is in his second year of preschool. Eli wasn’t even a blip on our radar, yet we can’t imagine our family without him. Adoption has changed so many people and so many families and we are excited to once again celebrate it through World Adoption Day.

World Adoption Day is a world-wide celebration of adoption. It is designed to celebrate family and to raise awareness for adoption.

The concept is so simple and so beautiful. Grab a sharpie, draw a smiley face on your hand and then post it on World Adoption Day, Nov. 9.

My wife has written an article on Dayton Moms Blog sharing more about the day. Go check it out and be involved!

How has adoption changed you? We’d love to hear your stories.

Come be a part of World Adoption Day.

The Life Giving Leader

When I first started reading The Life Giving Leader, I honestly wondered if we needed another book on leadership. Certainly not everything has been said that could be said about leadership, but I know there are lots of resources available for leaders. As I read Tyler’s Reagin’s book, I saw the value in what he had to share.

As the President of Catalyst, I know Reagin is in a position of leadership and also rubs shoulders with many of today’s top leaders. He draws from those experiences and shares them in the book.

In the first part of the book Reagin focuses on the person of the leader, primarily helping every leader to lead from who they are. He shares how he didn’t feel he could be a leader because of his personality type. He even shares how on two different occasions people told him that his success could be hindered by his personality. He goes on to encourage leaders to live and lead from who they are, what he calls “your truest self.”

I think we all have a picture in our mind of what a leader looks like. While we identify that ideal image, we also are able to point to the places where we don’t match up to the ideal. Reagin’s encouragement is to be who God made you to be, to lead out of that identity and give life to others. Those are good words we all need to hear.

In the second part of the book, he writes about the behaviors of a life-giving leader, including being willing to sweat, sacrifice, surrender and serve. While he had some good insights and suggestions in those chapters, one particular portion really stuck out to me.

Near the end of a chapter, he was writing about the importance of being on a team and how the leader builds good teams. He writes about developing trust and a culture where people believe the best instead of expecting the worst. I thought this quote was a great reminder as we work with people. We are going to let one another down, we are going to make mistakes and there is no perfect team. Knowing that Reagin writes this:

I know this is a crazy thought, but it’s good business to trust people. Obviously, there’s a chance someone will prove to be untrustworthy. But just because you had a bad cup of coffee once doesn’t mean you stop drinking coffee. Just because someone once used you and lost your trust doesn’t mean everyone who works with you should be called into suspicion.

If you work in any sort of group, team or organization, you know there exists what is called the “gap of information.”  When that gap exists, when we don’t know all the details or what someone is thinking when they make a decision, we fill in the gap with either trust or suspicion.  Reagin’s encouragement to leaders is to build a culture of trust and to be an advocate for your team members.  That is some solid advice for leaders as we continue to work with people.

The Life Giving Leader is filled with some good insights for leaders.  Reagin makes it clear that being a leader isn’t easy, but it is worth it. If you lead in any type of organization, this book would be of value to you.

Thanks to Waterbrook and Multnomah for an advance copy of The Life Giving Leader.